With much of the Canadian auto market currently capped by the number of vehicles automakers can supply, at the turn of the century automakers battled for every tooth and nail in market share with rising incentives. The year 2000 was one of the best years ever for the Canadian auto industry with over 1.55 million sales at the time.
But the tide turned. The traditional Big Three Detroit automakers saw their market share, while still at a formidable 66 percent, decline as import momentum picked up steam. For example, it was Kia’s first year. Premium brands that exercise so much control today – Mercedes-Benz and BMW – have jointly achieved less than 23,000 sales. That’s the kind of volume the German duo produced in just the first five months of 2021, while 22-year-old Kia Canada now produces in two months what it did throughout calendar year 2000.
As for the Big Three, owning two-thirds of the market now sounds downright comical. The trio sold more than a million vehicles in 2000, 400,000 more than in 2021. GM, Ford and Stellantis will own just over a third of the Canadian market by 2021. Need more context? General Motors sold about the same number of passenger cars in 2000—a branch of the company that barely exists today—as Toyota, Lexus, Honda, and Acura sold total vehicles, combined†
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Driving by number: Canada’s 10 best-selling vehicles in 2021
Still, it wasn’t GM, but rather its Ford compatriot who dominated the bestseller lists in 2000, and it was a DaimlerChrysler car that even surpassed those charts. Fast forward to the current decade and Ford, GM and Chrysler related brands remain major players on Canada’s bestseller lists, but it’s not with cars and minivans. Trucks and SUVs are the dominant vehicles of our time, a major shift since 2000, when a clear majority of new vehicles sold in Canada were passenger cars. Keep in mind that in 2000 Daewoo sold more cars than BMW SUVs. While Land Rover outperforms its Jaguar partner today by nearly 5-to-1 in Canada, in 2000 Jaguar sold twice as many vehicles as a full SUV Land Rover.
Yet there are still lingering aspects of the Canadian market that we knew in 2000. Some things take more than a few decades to change. Here are the five best-selling vehicles in 2000 – let’s see where they stand now.
5. Ford Focus
In its first full year on the market, the Ford Focus was an undeniable hit. The Escort replacement Focus was Canada’s second best-selling car. Nearly two decades later, the last 1,582 Ford Canada compact cars were sold in 2019. Aside from the Mustang, Ford is no longer a player in Canada’s shrinking car market. In 2000, cars made up 35 percent of Ford’s Canadian volume; almost 100,000 pieces.
Canada’s fifth best-selling car in 2021 was the Chevrolet Silverado.
4. Ford Windstar
Before going through a rebranding process as the Freestar, Ford’s Windstar minivan was an extremely high-volume contender. To be fair, even in its last full year (2006), the dying Ford Freestar produced 11,692 sales, almost equal to Canada’s best-selling minivan in 2021. It’s clearly a different world. Ford jumped out of the minivan segment at a time when minivan sales were five times stronger than they are today.
The number 4 vehicle in Canada in 2021 was the GMC Sierra.
3. Honda Civic
The Honda Civic is now competing for a piece of a much smaller pie than it was in 2000, but it remains the dominant passenger car in Canada. 2000 marked the third consecutive year of best-selling car status for the Canadian-built Civic, a run that now stands at 24 years. But while cars accounted for 55 percent of all new car sales in 2000, the Civic is now a big fish in a much smaller pond — by 2021, less than 20 percent of car sales in Canada were car-type.
The Toyota RAV4 was Canada’s third best-selling car in 2021.
2. Ford F Series
After six straight years as Canada’s No. 1 vehicle line, the Ford F Series succumbed to a minivan—yes, a minivan—in 2000. Now routinely selling over 100,000 annually, a feat never achieved in a single year by any other vehicle, the broad F-series lineup has taken the top spot every year since 2009. As important as the F-150 and its Super Duty partners are to a modern Ford Motor Company, by 2000 Ford’s other top sellers no longer exist in the Canadian market. In 2021, 49 percent of Ford’s Canadian sales came from the F-series, and no other Ford was in the top 10.
Ram’s pickup line was Canada’s second best-selling vehicle in 2021.
1. Dodge Caravan
In the Y2K era, the Dodge Caravan was Canada’s best-selling vehicle for three years in a row. Showing just how vastly different Canadian car tastes were 22 years ago, the Caravan – on its own – produced 87,737 sales. That’s in addition to its partner vans at Chrysler, plus vans from almost every other mainstream brand. By contrast, in 2021 the entire minivan market had just 33,648 units and three Chrysler/Dodge nameplates combined for just 13,339 sales, up from 25,643 in 2020.
The top-ranked vehicle line in Canada in 2021 was the Ford F Series.